We’ve been back over a week now from our little holiday down south, combined with a trip to Canberra for the Children’s Book Council of Australia conference. I’ve been struggling to find the time, energy or the words to put the whole experience together.

It was so GREAT. Yet so exhausting. Of course, the ‘holiday’ landed smack bang in the middle of an enormous contract I am doing for work, so either side, I have been hammering out 5,000-8,000 words a day to stay on top of it all. It’s possible, but everything else falls by the wayside. Including my mood. And the housework. Thank goodness for House Husband, seriously.

The conference itself was so fabulous. I walked into the reception soiree of my first ever conference, nervous as hell. No matter how confident or social you appear, it’s basic human nature to feel terrified walking into a room of people you’ve never met.

Anyway, I got talking to a librarian from Noosa right away, and within minutes was approached by the wonderful Natasha from Hardie Grant, who was so so great to connect with in person. Then I met the rest of the Hardie Grant team, and my publisher Margrete Lamond from Little Hare. I felt pretty special being connected with these people, and being able to talk about my book for real. Maybe I can stop pinching myself now.

The conference inspired me, and opened my mind to the children’s book industry. One of my favourite panels was “Visual Treasures” where three picture book collaborations talked about the process of making a picture book.

The lovely Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson nutted out the process of creating Amy & Louis and other books together, including Banjo & Ruby Red  (Little Hare), which has been shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2014 for Early Childhood. It made me aware how intricate and delicate the process of creating a picture book really is. It can take years, and so much thought, passion, and trust.

Banjo & Ruby Red

Detail from Banjo & Ruby Red

Sometimes, there’s little conversation between the author and the illustrator. In fact, a good working relationship thrives on trust and respect. Libby told us that once the story is written, she hands it over to the illustrator, and waits for the outcome. As she tells her creative writing students:

Let the other person who is the visual artist do what they do, and wait to be amazed.

Listening to Freya and the other illustrators, Julie Vivas and Stephen Michael King, I realised what an event it is illustrating a story book. It may not come naturally, and the story itself may provide little direction. It is up to the artist to take the story in a whole new direction, breathe new life into it, and make it soar.

All books are a struggle for me.

said Kate Greenaway Medal winner, Freya Blackwood.

Even for her.

One of the other highlights of the conference (apart from the visit to Jackie French’s property of course), was hearing the publishers talk about publishing literary treasures.

I want to talk about this more in another post, on another day, but basically, they discussed the importance of publishing good books for children – and not just any old thing.

In an era when more books for children are published than ever before, Erica Wagner, from Allen & Unwin said:

…publishing will survive and thrive only if we publish what children are interested in. But we also need to interest parents as we need parents to keep reading to children.

With the words of the publishers, of the illustrators and authors, including Andy Griffiths and Jackie French ringing in my heart, I felt so passionate about the importance of making and reading good books for children.

I was a little puppy-dog hopelessly savouring every morsel of information and insight. I am so new – not even yet part of this story – but it was hellishly exciting to dip my toe into the magical world of children’s literature.

After the conference we had a brief holiday, so I could spend a couple of down days with the family. It was perfect, and as relaxing as travelling around the countryside with two small people can be.

My feet haven’t touched the ground since we’ve been back. I’ve been working madly, and my littlest has been sick and sad, so that’s not been fun at all. Writing this, collecting my thoughts about the whole thing, I reckon I’ve almost landed. Just give me the weekend.

How’s your week been?

For more tales from the sunshine house, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I occasionally run giveaways for subscribers, and update you with the latest sunshine news.